Monday, November 23, 2009

Mountain Masochist Mile Trail Run (MMTR)

The MMTR is a premier East Coast 50+ miler and one that I figured I ought to run, especially since it is within driving distance of DC (and one I could postpone aggressively training for until after my comprehensive exam in late August). The race is generally held the first weekend of November and, unbeknownst to me when I registered, a veritable reunion for Liberty University students, former students, and parents.
Lisa and I left early in the evening on Friday and arrived in Lynchburg, Virginia well after the pre-race dinner concluded so I was unable to pick up my race number and race swag. Oh well. Our room, however, doubled as a hospitality suite -- the consequence of checking in so late -- and featured a bar area, enormous living area, and *two* murphy beds. The choice between the two was decided only after I lost the best-of-three thumb war tournament against Lisa. Following a surprisingly restful night's sleep, Lisa and I drove to the start line, I made some last minute decisions -- I went w/ the solo water bottle hip pack instead of the dual bottle pack and decided to wear both a long-sleeve tech tee and a short-sleeve tech tee with the intent of shedding the long-sleeve mid-day -- and then we were off at 5:30AM. Per the official course map, the first 5.7 miles are on pavement, although when we finally reached jeep road, my Garmin read 7.4 miles. Turns out those 5.7 miles are "Horton Miles" -- perhaps a throwback to the days before satellite-guided Garmins -- although I suspect it is largely because the preeminent ambassador of ultrarunning (and former MMTR race director), David Horton, enjoys being a running sadist. In spite of the "Horton Miles", however, this race is generously aided -- a couple of aid stations were just 2-3 miles apart -- so I saw Lisa at several of the stations. As usual, she was all smiles, encouraging, and toting any add'l water bottles, Perpeteum, or other supplies I might need. As far as aid station replenishment, I stuck with orange wedges, bananas, grapes, chips, boiled potatoes, and GU2O; I didn't eat any GU (chocolate mint -- yum!) until mile ~47. And, fortunately, my stomach cooperated all day, even though I had a handsome supply of TUMS to combat any problems. For the most part, I felt like I was moving relatively well all day, although some blistering started to form on the bottom of my right foot where the toes meet the ball of the foot (also a problem at the Headlands Hundred) and my left knee began to ache a bit on the downhills. I ran in my Montrail Mountain Masochists and have been satisfied with them on my training runs and will likely stick with them (I'm going to experiment with different kinds of socks since I'm not convinced the shoes are the source of the blistering, however).
Like most other ultramarathons, the characters running this race were what made the experience so unique. Around mile ~44, I passed the RD for the Highlands Sky 40 miler held in WV every June -- he wasn't having the best race -- nevertheless, I think he was mildly surprised that I recognized him (he certainly didn't know me) and, I think, pleased with my favorable opinion of his race. Another fellow I ran a few miles with seemed to be having a stellar race -- I suspect it was his race PR -- and he was just a dozen or so marathons/ultramathons away from reaching 100...pretty impressive, to be sure.
When I finally reached the last mile -- also on pavement -- I pushed on knowing that the mile was officially a mile and although I missed my (ambitious) goal of sub-10h, I still eked out a respectable time: 10h:40m:20s. The actual distance of the race was ~54 miles and I averaged 12:48 per mile. The only other 50 miler I've run is the Squaw Peak 50 miler in Provo, UT (my first ultramarathon) where I clocked in at 12:08 -- this race marked a considerable improvement in my 50 mile time. On the whole, the MMTR is fantastic race. The scenery, the changing leaves, the competitive field (Geoff Roes broke the course record by ~30 minutes!), and the friendliness of RD & the aid station volunteers make this a must-run race for any ultramarathoner living east of the Mississippi.

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